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Our Big Business Is Feeding Patients In Hospital

The euro 21-billion Facilities Management MNC Sodexo is a major player in India providing cost-effective solutions in healthcare including food, hard and soft facilities management, laundry services and, clinical technology management. Simon Scrivens, Global Marketing Head, Healthcare, Sodexo and Sambit Sahu, Country Director, Healthcare, Sodexo spoke to BW Healthcareworld’s Bhakt Vatsal Sharma about their business in India as well as learnings from the Indian healthcare industry. Excerpts:

How important is facilities management to Sodexo? Where does this sector stand today in India and abroad? 

Simon: Sodexo does a lot more than facilities manage­ment. Our big businesses in healthcare started forty years ago — feeding patients in hospitals. This bit of the business has now transformed into clinical nutrition. We employ thousands of Dietitians and Nutritionists to help us work with the clinical teams in hospitals to make sure we’re appropriately feeding the right kind of food to the patient in a cost-effective way. Sodexo has its interest mainly towards house­keeping, cleaning, disinfection and decontamination of hospitals and equipment. We have Clinical Technology Maintenance where we do maintenance of clinical equipments, everything from a blood pressure monitor to CT and MRI machines for hospitals. We provide engineering solutions to asset management companies effectively extending the life of those assets. I think today, we’re interested in something more important than fa­cilities management and have grown with the healthcare industry. With the increase of population that can access healthcare and investments made by governments, we are seeing a phenomenal growth in India, China, South East Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. In India, we are excited about our business as we are seeing a growth increasing by 20 per cent per year. We are see­ing hospitals becoming more open to the ideas we provide in terms of processes and technologies from our large businesses from Europe and the US. We’re seeing the Indian government becoming more demanding for healthcare providers and looking at it closely from a patient, hospital, quality and the cost point of view. 

Sambit: : In India we are the only healthcare player to of­fer solutions ranging from food services, hard FM, soft FM, laundry services to Clinical Technology Management (CTM). There are a few players who specialize in food services or Clinical Technology Management (CTM) but we at Sodexo brought a holistic solution in core and non-core activities and have an integrated approach mainly for the satisfaction of our clients and patients. In terms of scale, we have a leader­ship position in India for the on-site service solutions and work with 50 clients here. In terms of numbers and sites, it goes up to 500 including clinical technology manage­ment which is a new space we entered in the Indian markets last year. We have partnered with old clients like Lilavati Hospital, Vijaya Hospital for over two decades. We are also focused on working with government projects as we have some unique solutions pin-pointing the challenges and address­ing them with respect to the Indian healthcare industry. We have partnered with HITES for JIPMER Super Speciality Block, Pondicherry where we take care of complete Technical Solutions and it is the only hospital in public space that has a computerized Maintenance Management system. AIIMS New Delhi’s 350-acre space has been managed by us in mechanised cleaning which also made a mark in being recognised for the Swach Bharat Abhiyaan carried out by the Indian government. Clinical technology man­agement for the Bio-Medical -engineering space is one of our most recognised projects which we have been working on closely with the West Bengal government.

Where does Sodexo’s healthcare business stand today in the world? How is the Company bringing effective solutions to India? 

Simon: Sodexo globally has revenues of about 21 billion Euros and our healthcare business is 4.5 billion Euros making it to 20 per cent of the total healthcare indus­try. It is the second largest part of our global business and is the one of the fastest growing. One of the things we’ve done in the last few years is to reorganise ourselves to be built around our global verticals. Earlier Sodexo used to run on a country-based organisation, however, we have moved to global verticals now. We look after the health­care business in 39 countries where we deal with 2500 hospitals enabling us to share best practice and innova­tion in a much easier way. We entered into the clinical engineering contracts (In partnership with HITES) with West Bengal Government because we delivered solutions and services from our reach in Thailand and USA. There are real benefits for us but bigger benefits for our clients. In healthcare, we aim to acquire competence in technology and in other areas wherever it is required. Our work with the West Bengal government is a great example where we manage 50,000 devices. No one had any idea of utilizing those resources. We then coined a solution for them based on the location of these devices to find out the last location and its service area. It’s possibly the first time anybody has taken up this initiative anywhere in the world. 

Sambit: For us, India is a place where we are looking to grow but primarily focus on providing effective solutions in the private and public space. Food services is in our DNA and we are bringing new services to improve the healthcare infrastructure in the country. Twenty per cent of the equipment out of 50,000 devices in West Bengal were not in a running condition but there is no dearth of funds for the government to spend on healthcare. Today 95 per cent of the equipment are in good condition and are being used by the govern­ment. Our projects with the government of West Bengal is in partnership with HITES (HLL Infra Tech Services Lid) under the Ministry of Health which provides solutions for designing and construction of hospitals. They are the highest bio-medical equipment purchasers in India including the central government affiliated large hospitals. 

Give us some examples of the solutions introduced by Sodexo in India and overseas?

Simon:

We see India like other large countries that we operate in and Sambit has really contributed in articulating some of the challenges in the country. The challenges we see in the US are in areas like logistics and space as it takes time to get spare parts for various equip­ment. Our clinical engineer­ing proposition is the fastest-growing in areas which can provide significant solutions to governments over time. The other services that we of­fer include our food business where we have moved from providing hospitals with food to partnering up with clinical teams in order to deliver ap­propriate nutrition to individ­ual patients. We have invested in dietitians and technology to help patients order their food through various digital applications and platforms. By the linkage of phone to the electronic medical record allows us to prevent our patients from having food which is not suitable for their diet. This feature is simple and beneficial as the patients cannot order anything which is not recommended by the Dietician as per their Clinical condition, so that they can have a safe experience. In the nutrition space, we are moving from the guys in the kitchen to the guys with the dietitians and therapists to help patients. 

Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) exist in every hospital and in every part of the world and we have solutions that could reduce the diseases by 40-60 per cent depending on the type of bug, patients and hospitals as well. The solutions we are providing to the state of West Bengal will be taken forward to other countries.  

Sambit: It is important for people to realise that housekeeping services in the hospital space is quite different compared to others. The practicality that also involves aspects like over engineering of solution in western countries needs lo­calisation is where we are bringing out effective examples over a period. We have taken all these pilots and analysed their usage over 8-10 months and are still going to continue with our evidence-based outcomes. We are seeing significant reductions in terms of infection rates, but we want to validate our offer over two quarters and then have these offers rolled out to our existing clients. We will leverage these services to 25 hospitals in India that have been closely working with us in the field of patient care, housekeeping and laundry services.

Is patient satisfaction important for Sodexo?

Simon: Yes, it is important for us! Patient satisfaction is one of the things that every hospital and physician will agree is im­portant. But it is more important in some places than others. Like in the US patient satisfaction scores are linked with hospital revenues. Higher the patient satisfaction, more money you get from the government which is not the same in other countries. Using our approach towards of spreading awareness about its advantages and applying it is our primary strategy for driving patient satisfaction. If there is no significant cost attached to it, then why not put in more atten­tion in this field and bring tech­nologies from one country to an­other and provide our services at scale. In the US, UK and France, the data is publicly available, and it will also come to India particularly for private hospitals where patients evolve into consumers of healthcare. These scores will become important as patients begin to make choices between hospitals when required based on numbers that are published. There is no arguing with data, and you can see that coming soon from the private providers in India. 

Sambit: If you look at the number of JCI (Joint Commission International) hospitals in India five years ago, it was in a single digit. Today we have over 50-60 hospitals which are JCI accredited in the country. The reason behind this is an increase in medical tourism and one of the basic selection criteria for them are the numbers with respect to patient satisfaction. Everyone with the help of social media is getting the data through surveys and feedbacks for their procedures in critical operations. This is a mix pack because people who are not satisfied would not be providing important inputs. However, a couple of discussions with CEOs of the new hospitals coming in from the Middle East are talking about publishing their satisfaction numbers making it publicly available. They are also trying to work in a way where the sources are in­dependent primarily after discharge. These hospitals are competing for international patients in Dubai, Bangkok, London and US. The whole process requires convincing of the patients to opt your services and some of them are based on the clinical icons which again is very complicated for patients to understand. 

Where do you see Sodexo in the next five years? 

Simon: I think that we will continue to grow with our core business strongly with food, engineering, housekeeping and infection control. We also wish to push into se­lected clinical areas wherein we shall try not to employ physicians and doctors but provide therapists and tech­nician based services as we do in Thailand. As a company, we know how to provide mobile urology services and we shall grow further in the field. We are also acquiring nursing services for outside hospital care and we have made acqui­sitions in the U.K a year ago along with a month back deal with Brazil. As a lot of care is required outside hospitals, the need for competent nurs­ing to provide clinical care in people’s homes is happening in most countries and has begun in India as well.  

Sambit: The growth engine for Sodexo are in countries like India, Brazil, South-East Asia etc. A growth of 10-15 per cent is not good enough for us, especially when the opportunity is huge for us to add value into this segment. We are focused on developing the private and public sector organisations in India. Cash flow isn’t the issue but our role in the future is crucial for providing the right kind of model for both public and private hospitals including medical colleges and help them to be lean.


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BW Healthcare Magazine May 2019

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